As in past years, in lieu of a New Year’s resolution, I’ve chosen a single word to frame the year ahead. There are numerous websites and blogs that celebrate this idea. This is my favorite. The following sentiment from the site really sums it up beautifully; My One Word replaces broken promises with a vision for real change. When you choose a single word, you have a clarity and focus. You are moving toward the future rather than swearing off the past.
Drum roll, please … PERSPECTIVE. That’s my focus and goal for 2020. When I chose the word “perspective” I honestly didn’t even make the connection with the numbers in the new year, 2020. It seems so fitting that “20÷20” vision means visual acuity, the clarity and sharpness of vision. For me, gaining perspective is all about expanding my understanding of situations, of others and of life so that I have multiples lenses with which to view them.
Once my word was chosen, I began contemplating how I would add more perspective to my thinking, feelings, beliefs and, ultimately, my actions. It will come as no shock to my friends, colleagues, and faithful Teach it Forward followers, that the ultimate answer lies in the pages of my many books.
While listening, really listening, with the heart and not just one’s ears, is an essential way to gain perspective, I believe that voracious reading is also an especially important approach to gaining and focusing on perspective. Finding myself lost in a book that takes me to another place or time, with characters so real they feel like long-lost friends, is definitely one way I will keep perspective in the forefront of my mind throughout the year ahead.
When I read books for pleasure, whether it be for my monthly book club, from a recommendation from one of my book enthusiast friends (join our Facebook group here) or a title I’ve discovered from the many book blogs or sites I follow, I often find myself thinking about my students. I share my reading life with them regularly, but I also want them to hear about how and why the books I read change me and make my life better.
One idea I have for promoting the idea of perspective is to not only offer insight about what I’m reading, but also to offer kid-appropriate book recommendations that connect to the themes and topics of my books. Following is a list of books I have on my “just read,” “currently reading,” or “to-be-read” lists and the children’s or middle grade titles I would pair with them. My hope is that as I gain perspective from reading, I can share that goal and benefit with my students, inspiring them to be life-long readers.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes + Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter
Both books feature stories of traveling libraries, with books delivered to readers in remote locations by horseback and donkey. Five fierce women in the late 1930s impact the lives of the mountain folk in rural Kentucky as well as experience dramatic change in their own lives, thanks to FDR’s New Deal. In Columbia, a boy named Luis decides to share his love of books by delivering stories to children in faraway villages with his burros, Alfa and Beto. Readers of these books will gain perspective about the determination of some very special librarians who are willing to go to the extreme to spread literacy to all corners of the world.
This is How it Always Is by Laurel Frankel + Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Both books invite the reader to imagine what it is like to yearn for a transformation even when that change risks ridicule and requires a great deal of courage. Frankel shares the heart wrenching yet uplifting story of a child named Claude, a family’s secret and the liberating freedom that comes from honoring the truth. Love’s tender story about a boy, his secret desire and his grandma’s unconditional love and acceptance is simply exquisite. Readers of these books will gain perspective about being the parent or grandparent of a precious child who is dealing with a desire to be who they are meant to be (along with perspective about being that child).
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate + Forever or a Long Long Time by Caela Carter
Both books explore the complex and unresolved feelings that sometimes impact kids in foster care or orphanages. Wingate’s saga is based on actual events from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage and reveals the incredible bond that can never be severed among siblings. Carter’s poignant story portrays the struggle of building trust when your life has been a never ending series of goodbyes and starting over. Readers of these books will gain perspective of the need to explore one’s past in order to see the future.
The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede + Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Both books examine the aftermath of 9⁄11. The adult book features the true story that inspired the hit Broadway musical Come from Away about a small town in Newfoundland that welcomed 7,000 stranded passengers following the crisis. The middle grade book introduces Dèja’s point of view, a fifth grade girl searching for answers about the terrifying event that impacted her family and community in so many ways. Readers of these books will gain perspective about how we can find something about humanity to treasure even in the midst of tragedy.
The Atomic City Girls: A Novel by Janet Beard + Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
Both books are based on true events and shed light on a tough and sensitive topic, the atomic bomb. The first title delves into life in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, later known as “Atomic City,” where people worked unknowingly on the Manhattan Project during World War II. The second book is a tribute to a young Japanese girl who was just two years old when the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima and was later diagnosed with leukemia. Readers of these books will gain perspective about the devastating effects of war.
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover + Schooled by Gordon Korman
Both books present a narrative about learning in an unorthodox manner. Westover shares the story of her incredible journey of learning which started as a child in Idaho with her survivalist parents and eventually led to a PhD from Cambridge University. Korman’s middle grade novel features a young boy, Capricorn (Cap), who has lived most of his life in a commune with his grandma. Isolated from the real world until his grandma is hospitalized, Cap is suddenly thrown into an unfamiliar world and the harsh realities of middle school. Readers of these books will gain perspective on what it’s like to assimilate into a society that seems foreign while trying to understand the life and family you’ve left behind.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” ― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons